Video: David Simon on Margaret Thatcher & Drugs

The decriminalisation of drugs is one of the most contentious issues in the modern world, one that instigates debate in United Nations Conferences, local pubs, government cabinets and committees, school classrooms, local pubs – any place in which people are prepared to share their opinion(s). Following my article on the subject (‘Should Drugs Be Decriminalised?), here is an interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire, a television series in which drugs were actually decriminalised, that appeared in The Guardian on May 25th, 2013. With drugs, specifically the American war on drugs, forming the crux of The Wire – each season adopts a different viewpoint in regard to how they infiltrate each part of Baltimore’s society, the city in which the series is based – Simon has clearly given the issue some considerable thought over the past decade. Indeed, he argues what is perhaps the most controversial point of view in the drug-decriminalisation debate, suggesting that the war on drugs, via the consistent condemnation of the lower classes for drug-related crimes over the past half-century, has become a class war – a war, in other words, of rich against poor.

Paris, Sandy Hook & The Second Amendment

Minutes before mid-day on Thursday 16th May, 2013, with the Eiffel Tower just over a kilometer away, a middle-aged man strolled into a Parisian nursery school on rue Cler and, in the school’s hall in front of twelve children, pulled the trigger of the sawn-off shotgun that he had removed from a bag and directed deliberately towards his face, instantly killing himself. Most of us, luckily, can only ever imagine the sort of wild-minded chaos that immediately ensues after such nightmarish moments, and how devastating the subsequent mental trauma can be to individuals, families and, at its worst (in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, for example), to entire communities. However, though there were no fatalities during the shooting at La Rochefoucault nursery, these sort of incidents have become increasingly prevalent in recent years across Western society, particularly in the United States. Indeed, when I first read the headline ‘Man shoots himself dead in front of schoolchildren’, I instantly presumed, as I am confident most of us would nowadays, that the incident took place in America, a country that boasts 89 guns for every 100 of its 316 million citizens.

Firmly founded on the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically on the ‘need for a well-regulated militia’, America is very much the arms capital of the world. However, since it was adopted on 15th December, 1791, when state-authorised police forces were very much still in their infancy, the world has changed significantly. Now the United States, on a federal level alone, possesses a plethora of them: the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Bureau of Pensions, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Secret Service, the United States Coast Guard and, finally, the Transport Security Administration. Unless American citizens themselves need protecting from them, such an exetensive list of law-enforcing authorities questions the assertion that guns are needed, such as a semi-automatic shotgun, for civilian self-defence. London’s Metropolitan Police say that ‘by carrying a knife, you are far more likely to get stabbed yourself’, and the exact same principle, whether in the United States or in the United Kingdom, applies to guns. The very possession of arms, regardless of their intended use, dramatically increases the risk of gun violence, slowly creating a fear-filled culture that, if sustained for long enough, becomes the very reason for civilian gun-possession being justified.

Despite the ongoing global recession, the United States is still the world’s most powerful country, meaning that its currency is used, officially and unofficially, across most continents. It also means that it receives an unparalleled amount of attention from the international press, and it may be due to this attention, with school shootings becoming an increasingly pertinent issue in American society, that the middle-aged man decided to shoot himself in the nursery school in Paris, a city without any previous incidents of a similar nature. Though this may not actually be the case, the information about guns that we encounter, as with any other subject, certainly effects our attitudes towards them, a notion the American author Stephen King suggests in an article for The Guardian, written in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting:

 ‘During my junior and senior years in high school, I wrote my first novel, then titled Getting It On…Ten years later, after the first half-dozen of my books had become bestsellers, I revisited Getting It On, rewrote it, and submitted it to my paperback publisher under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. It was published as Rage, sold a few thousand copies and disappeared from view. Or so I thought.

 In February 1996, a boy named Barry Loukaitis walked into his algebra class in Washington, with a .22-caliber revolver and a high-powered hunting rifle. He used the rifle to kill instructor Leona Caires and two students. Then, waving the pistol in the air, he declared, “This sure beats algebra, doesn’t it?” The quote is from Rage’.

What Barry Loukaitis read in ‘Rage’ planted a seed into his mind, a rotten one, instigating the deaths of six American citizens, and it is no different with regard to the articles we read about such school shootings: they are just as much a source of inspiration for gun-violence as ‘Rage’ – perhaps even more so, in fact, with their non-fictional genre. Consequently, as much as Americans who advocate civilian gun-ownership are responsible for sustaining an environment in which 68% of murders are caused by firearms – an eye-widening figure when it is compared to the 1.6% rate of the UK (although the US, interestingly, does have a lower rate of per-capita violent crime than the UK) – the international media must also hold some degree of responsibility for the high number of school shootings in America, predominantly with regard to the extensive publicity that it often gives to the shooters. In a Google News search for Adam Lanza, for example, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooter, there are nearly as many articles on him (over 8,600) as on his 27 victims (nearly 9,200), identifying a patent imbalance of news coverage, one that priorities a pre-mediated murderer over their innocent victims – twenty of which were between the age of six and seven. Sadly, this bias is a common trend in the international media’s coverage of these incidents, yet the most shameful aspect of such prejudiced coverage is that we, its readers, with our strange obsessions with the psychologically disturbed, or at least those who seem to be, hardly seem bothered by it at all. Most of us, if we are completely honest with ourselves, probably enjoy reading about the cruel, callous actions of notorious serial murderers. Indeed, how else has the case of Jack the Ripper, the first serial-killer to incite an international media frenzy, endured so strongly in popular and academic culture over the past century?

Although many of us may indeed have an interest in the unstable-minded, which may explain the prejudice of the international press, that does not justify the insufficient reportage that school shootings victims receive. Therefore, as Republicans and Democrats continue to bow obediently to the collective wills of gun-supporting groups (such as the NRA) in Congress, causing any legislation that limits gun-possession of American citizens to be repeatedly blocked, the international press could consider the following in the meantime: during its coverage of the next school shooting in America (for there will be another one), it might consider paying particular attention to the victims because, as the incident in La Rochefoucault nursery might suggest, giving the sick-minded violence of school shootings such widespread international press might risk making it more of an international problem.

This article was published originally in The Student Journals.

Extract: The New Statesman Essay – Europe

Entitled ‘The Great Reckoning: Why the European ideal is under threat‘, written by Mark Mazower for The Centenary Issue of the New Statesman, this essay is an insightful critique of the ongoing economic crisis in the Eurozone. It questions Europe’s dependence on the financial sector for economic and social stability, arguing that money, since The Second World War, has generally been used ‘to make money and not things’, whilst it also examines the paradoxical role of globalisation in Europe’s financial influence worldwide, culminating with the global economic crisis that begun with the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers in 2008, more commonly known as The Great Recession. Consequently, having thoroughly enjoyed reading it, I have quoted what I think is the crux of the essay’s argument, a small section of fantastic political prose that might make you, in the same way that it made me, think about the financial situation of the Eurozone.

‘Today the consequences of financialisation, within and outside Europe, are clear enough. Look at average growth rates during the Trente Glorieuses and during the past 30 years: the comparison makes sobering reading. Banks and hedge funds may have increased their profitability, but national and continental economic performance have lagged sharply behind. One reason for this is that globalisation has made the world more crisis-prone, not less so: nostalgia for the dictator António Salazar in Portugal or communism in Russia reflects how the greater self-sufficiency of the years before 1980 brought greater predictability and stability. And it has also made the world much less equal or fair. The trend towards equalisation of wealth and incomes that occurred within European societies between 1945 and 1975 has been stopped, and the curve, without exception in Europe, now points the other way, towards an ever-widening income gap, which is forcing large sections of the population to recalibrate their social expectations for themselves and their children.

In so far as the EU stands for the defence of the single currency, it thus finds itself aligned against those very priorities – ­stability, solidarity, equality – that helped restore the legitimacy of democracy to the western half of the continent after 1945. The recent divide between creditor north and debtor south makes these problems far more acute, but in fact they existed before the crisis hit. Even then, they lay at the heart of the fundamental political challenge that financialisation has produced, the challenge posed by the decoupling of political from economic power. The euro-crisis has made this challenge evident, and more morally troubling.

In these circumstances, what demands explanation is not the emergence of organised protest, but the lack of it. Why, we need to ask, do people find it so hard to imagine alternatives? Taxpayers are bailing out the financial sector. So why haven’t they demanded more regulation, more control of pay, and ultimately a rebalancing of relationships between finance and manufacturing, between global liquidity and nationally rooted communities?

The main reason is the absence of widely believed alternatives. The revolutionary left, whether communist or anarchist, has failed at the ballot box, which may not matter to its adherents but signals its lack of political weight. In the few cases where it has succeeded, as in austerity-riven Greece (with Syriza), its recipes for the crisis are scarcely revolutionary. People may have soured on the globalisation dream but politicians continue to regard the financial markets as indispensable in more or less their present form. Domestically, what is striking is the degree to which recovery programmes today rely simply on expanding liquidity through the banking system rather than by means of the kind of ambitious public works projects that characterised recovery across Europe after 1945. Thus, while the left hand of Whitehall chastens the banks, its right hand begs them to kick-start a new boom’.

Extract: How To Spot a Murderer’s Brain

Written by Tim Adams, the extract below is quoted from an article, entitled ‘How to spot a murderer’s brain‘, that appeared in The Guardian on Sunday 12th May, 2013. Having read some of Adrian Raine’s neurocriminology research in the past, I think he is perhaps one of the most important figures in our society today, although he has yet to receive the widespread recognition that he fully deserves, investigating a scientific field that could question the very foundations of our current justice system. One day, though, he will receive such recognition but, before he does, our attitudes towards criminals must continue to be challenged.

“In 1987, Adrian Raine, who describes himself as a neurocriminologist, moved from Britain to the US. His emigration was prompted by two things. The first was a sense of banging his head against a wall. Raine, who grew up in Darlington and is now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was a researcher of the biological basis for criminal behaviour, which, with its echoes of Nazi eugenics, was perhaps the most taboo of all academic disciplines.

“As Raine began to explore the subject more, he began to look at the reasons he became a researcher of violent criminality, rather than a violent criminal. (Recent studies suggest his biology might equally have propelled him towards other careers – bomb disposal expert, corporate executive or journalist – that tend to attract individuals with those “psychopathic” traits.) Despite his unusual brain structure, he didn’t have the low IQ that is often apparent in killers, or any cognitive dysfunction. Still, as he worked for four years interviewing people in prison, a lot of the time he was thinking: what stopped me being on their side of the bars?

“Raine’s biography, then, was a good corrective to the seductive idea that our biology is our fate and that a brain scan can tell us who we are. Even as he piles up evidence to show that people are not the free-thinking, rational agents they like to imagine themselves to be – entirely liberated from the limitations set by our inherited genes and our particular neuroanatomy – he never forgets that lesson. The question remains, however, that if these “biomarkers” do exist and exert an influence – and you begin to see the evidence as incontrovertible – then what should we do about them?

“Perhaps we should do nothing, simply ignore them, assume, when it comes to crime, that every individual has much the same brain, the same capacity to make moral choices, as we tend to do now. As Raine suggests: “The sociologist would say if we concentrate on these biological things, or even acknowledge them, we are immediately taking our eyes off other causes of criminal behaviour – poverty, bad neighbourhoods, poor nutrition, lack of education and so on. All things that need to change. And that concern is correct. It is why social scientists have fought this science for so long.”

“The implication of neurocriminology, though – where it differs from the crude labelling of phrenology, say – is that the choice it presents is not an either/or between nurture and nature, but a more complex understanding of how our biology reacts with its environment. Reading Raine’s account of the most recent research into these reactions, it still seems to me quite new and surprising that environmental factors change the physical structure of the brain. We tend to talk about a child’s development in terms of more esoteric ideas of mind rather than material brain structures, but the more you look at the data the clearer the evidence that abuse or neglect or poor nutrition or prenatal smoking and drinking have a real effect on whether or not those healthy neural connections – which lead to behaviour associated with maturity, self-control and empathy – are made. The science of this is called epigenetics, the way our environment regulates the expression of our innate genetic code.

“One result of epigenetics might be, Raine suggests, that “social scientists can actually win from this. I mean, if a child experiences a murder in his or her neighbourhood, we have found that their test scores on a range of measures go down. There is something happening in the brain as a result of that experience of violence to affect cognition. So social scientists can have their cake and eat it. They can say look, we can prove that these environmental social factors are causing brain impairment, which leads to some real, measurable problems.”

“One difficulty of embracing this “epigenetical” idea of crime is the degree to which such factors should be taken into account in courts of law. There have been several landmark cases in recent years in which particular neurological disorders caused by blows to the skull or undetected tumours have resulted in arguable changes in character and behaviour – and the violent or sexual crime is blamed on the disorder, not the individual. In most of these cases, it has been argued by the prosecution that brain imaging is prejudicial, that the brightly coloured pictures are too compelling to a jury and more emotional than scientific. But if neural scanning becomes more routine, and neuroscience more precise, will there not come a point where most violent behaviour – that of the Boston bombers, say, or the Newtown killer – is argued away in court as an illness, rather than a crime?

“Raine believes that there might well be. He even likens such a shift to our change in perception of cancer, until fairly recently often deemed the “fault” of the sufferer because of some repressive character trait. “If we buy into the argument that for some people factors beyond their control, factors in their biology, greatly raise the risk of them becoming offenders, can we justly turn a blind eye to that?” Raine asks. “Is it really the fault of the innocent baby whose mother smoked heavily in pregnancy that he went on to commit crimes? Or if he was battered from pillar to post, or even if he was born with a, abnormally low resting heart rate, how harshly should we punish him? How much should we say he is responsible? There is, and increasingly will be, an argument that he is not fully responsible and therefore, when we come to think of punishment, should we be thinking of more benign institutions than prison?”

 

Should Drugs Be Decriminalised?

Between the ages of eleven months and seven I grew up in Henleaze, a small suburban community located on the outskirts of Bristol’s centre. My family and I lived in a semi-detached house of average size that separated us from our neighbours with wafer-thin walls, and my bedroom was next to that of a kind and charismatic teenage girl, Katie, who my parents regularly used to babysit my brother and me. During the first few years in the area her and I spent a lot of time together, generally consisting of us drawing half-scribbled pictures (well, mine certainly were) or us playing nonsensical, but wonderfully fun, games that we spontaneously invented, such as Who Can Say the Alphabet Fastest. Katie’s visits to our house became far less frequent as I grew older, though. Her absence was also accompanied by strange scratching noises, akin to the sound of rats gnawing into wooden floorboards, that usually emitted from her bedroom in the early hours of the morning. Katie, we soon discovered, an intelligent girl who aspired to study medicine at university, had become addicted to drugs.

Instigated and subsequently encouraged by a drug-dealing boyfriend, her habit slowly consumed her, eventually leading her to attempt to abstain from her dangerous diet of ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and smack – to go cold turkey. Indeed, those scratching sounds I sometimes heard were the result of her desperate efforts to do so (all of which, as far as I know, were unsuccessful) as she tried, literally, to climb up her bedroom walls, driven to near-madness by her cravings and confinement. Being a drug-addict, as one would expect, induced significant changes in Katie’s physical appearance. By the time I was eight her skin was pallid, her teeth were tinted grey, and her fingernails were bloody – bitten back to the quick. By the time we had left Henleaze, though, Katie had stopped scratching the walls: although that was only because she had started working as a prostitute in the back-streets of Bristol by then, feeding her illicit habit with equally illicit activities. But whilst the means through which Katie satisfied her habit may have been illegal, should the fact she was a drug-user have incriminated her, too? (I use the past tense because, though I hope I assume wrongly, I assume that Katie died several years ago, having failed repeatedly to stop taking drugs by the time my family left Bristol in 2005.)

Judging from the lowly social status of drug addicts nowadays, it seems that many of us, including myself at times, often fail to show any sense of understanding towards such individuals, identifying them as weak-willed people who have squandered their last chance at having a respectable life. Though we are generally responsible, of course, for upholding such a disparaging opinion of drug-addicts, our government and media have also encouraged us to think of them in such a negative way since the War on Drugs began in the UK with the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1971. Throughout this period, despite the consistent rise of drug-users worldwide and the illegal-drugs industry becoming the third most valuable in the world, now estimated to be worth around £294 billion, drug-users have been persistently punished for taking drugs, founded on the principle that being a drug-addict is immoral and, crucially, a lifestyle choice one makes. However, whilst taking drugs for the first time may be a lifestyle choice, though most people are probably peer-pressured into doing so, being a drug-addict is not: the principle on which hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions – of drug addicts have been incarcerated is completely false. ‘Addictions can be seen as a loss-of-control over what starts out as a voluntary behaviour’, says former government drugs advisor Dr. David Nutt. ‘Thus addiction is not, as some like to suggest, a lifestyle choice. It is a serious, often lethal, disease caused by an enduring (probably permanent) change in brain function’.

Having seen Katie descend into vice – one time she attacked an elderly woman, robbing her handbag, which she then tried to sell to someone else – I have seen this psychological change myself, one that can rip relationships within families and friendship groups apart. Consequently, when illegal drugs cause so much harm to its users and to those closest to them, why is it that current governmental law persecutes drug-addicts for their condition, a veritable disease, particularly when other addicts (such as nymphomaniacs or alcoholics) are not persecuted at all for theirs? In terms of its impact on the individual and on wider society, alcohol is ‘more harmful than heroin or crack’, according to a recent study in the UK’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. This study also states our country’s ABC drug-classification system ‘has little relation to the evidence of harm’. It is somewhat strange, then, that alcohol, a substance our government spends nearly £6 billion a year policing, is not subjected to the same rigorous legislation as Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth) or Morphine diacetate (Heroin), although it could be because the United States tried to prohibit it during the 20th century – and failed hopelessly.

There are obviously those who are still vehemently against the decriminalization of drugs*. Ann Widecomb, for example, the former Home Office minister, is quoted in the Telegraph saying: ‘There are only two ways of doing it, either you decriminalise all drugs or only the soft drugs. If you decriminalise just the soft drugs, all the efforts of the drug barons will then be poured into the hard drugs’. Her recommended drug policy, unsurprisingly, is ‘zero tolerance, from hard drugs down to the possession of soft drugs’. However, it is precisely this conservative, zero-tolerance policy that has been used for the past forty-two years – and it simply has not worked. ‘We’re in a recession’, says Steve Rolles, member of the anti-prohibition of drugs group Transform, ‘yet across the whole criminal justice system we are spending around £4 billion a year on drug enforcement that plainly isn’t working because drug-use and drug-related crime is going up’. Indeed, the failure of the War on Drugs in the UK is perhaps exemplified most by the fact ‘95% of all establishments’ in the restaurants and clubs of Kensington and Chelsea, according to The Guardian, recently tested positive for cocaine, an eye-widening figure that clearly indicates the severe extent to which drug-taking has become endemic within our society.

The argument for the decriminalization of drugs is strengthened further, also, by the study published by The Cato Institute with regard to the effect decriminalization has had on Portugal since it was passed as governmental law in 2001, the only member of the European Union to have done so at the time of writing this article. Having had one of the highest user-rates of intravenous drugs across Europe in 1998, notably heroin, Portugal has seen a 17% decrease in drug-related viruses (such as HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis) since it decriminalised drugs. With the Portuguese government investing a large percentage of money it saved on policing drugs, 147% more drug-users, after overcoming their initial fear of being prosecuted, have received rehab treatment. Instead of being penalized, drug-users are now referred to Commissions for Dissuasions of Drug Addiction that use social workers and psychologists, amongst other governmental and legal representatives, to adjudicate ‘administrative drug offenses and imposing sanctions – if any’. Indeed, according to the report, the commission will often suspend all sanctions if an ‘addict agrees to undergo treatment’, a decision I deeply wish my neighbour Katie was forced to make.

*Note: decriminalization does not mean drugs will be legalized; it means ‘either that only non-criminal sanctions, such as fines or treatment requirements, are imposed or that no penal sanctions can be’.

This article was originally published in The Prisma.

Retiro

I see old men bent forward on benches, spitting out seeds from crumpled mouths, leaning on wooden sticks.

I see people lying in uncut grass: some of them read, others just sunbathe – one man sleeps, wheezing with each deep breath.

I see young boys waving sticks, playfully fighting, and couples sitting on stone steps, whispering about something excitedly.

I see men plucking strings, their fingers plastered, their heads bowed, and women cradling blankets that will not stop crying.

I see a girl scuffing her shoes on the dusty floor; her parents don’t notice – her parents don’t care: shoes are not what trouble them.

The Politics of the Olympics

Regularly commanding unparalleled attention worldwide from both the general public and the media, sport provides perhaps one of the greatest stages to showcase a political message. As Nelson Mandela, one of the foremost (and few) political leaders to harness sport’s political power effectively, says about its potential: ‘sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does’. Subsequently, it is unsurprising that, in spite of the fifth chapter of the Olympic Charter stating that ‘no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas’, several politically-influenced incidents have occurred during past Olympic Games – the world’s largest sporting event. In 1936, Adolf Hitler exploited the Berlin Games to substantiate his ideology of Aryan racial superiority, an ideology that was rendered risible by Jesse Owens, a black athlete from the United States, who went on to win four gold medals during the Games – more than any other athlete in the whole competition. In 1972, during another German-hosted Games, a Palestinian terrorist organization, Black September, broke into the Israeli quarters in the Olympic Village in Munich, taking members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage and, eventually, killing six coaches and five athletes after the Israeli government dismissed the terrorists’ demands.

Fortunately, the Olympic Games has not been sullied by any political boycotting or terrorist attacks since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when Eric Rudolph, an anti-gay and anti-abortion terrorist from the ‘Army of God’, placed the three pipe bombs, which were surrounded by nails, in the Centennial Olympic Park that killed two people and injured 111 others. However, that does not mean that politics has not meddled with the Olympics since the start of the second millennia Indeed, many economists, such as Dr. Curt Hamakawa and Dr. Elizabeth Elam from Western New England University, have regarded the architectural spectacle and organizational brilliance of China’s 2008 Olympics in Beijing as their deliberate (and successful) attempt to advertise themselves a ‘full-fledged first-world economic power‘. The world’s political situation, then, often overshadow each Olympic Games, and this year’s Olympics in London is no exception to the rule. With the UK’s economy currently floundering in a double-dip recession, London 2012, which the British Olympic Association secured whilst the UK was still profiting from a period of consistent economic growth, has provided the country’s politicians with a prime opportunity to exhibit the UK (and particularly London – one of the world’s leading financial and cultural centres) to potential investors. ‘Britain is back open for business‘, declared David Cameron at the British Business Embassy’s Global Investment Conference on the day preceding the Opening Ceremony of the Games, ‘and we are committed to supporting global growth with open trade between our nations’. To an audience containing senior figures from some of the world’s leading business, he then concluded: ‘So invest in Britain, partner with Britain, not just to invest in this country, but because this is the place, the hub, from which your company can grow and expand’. Other members of Mr. Cameron’s coalition cabinet have also reinforced their leader’s positive message about the UK. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, stated that the Olympics provides a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to boost the UK’s growth potential’, and the Chancellor, George Osborne, said: ‘Britain has always been a country that is open to the world. In hosting the Olympic Games, we are showcasing that openness’.

Behind the foreground, therefore, of the thousands of Olympic athletes striving to claim a much-coveted medal, the UK’s politicians, by using London 2012 as the ultimate (and possibly most expensive) worldwide advert, are striving equally as hard to salvage their country’s precarious economic situation. However, have the Olympic Games always been a financial success for other host nations? In short: no. With its debt of $1.5 billion from the cost of their Olympic Stadium’s construction, which was only paid off in December 2009, the 1976 Olympics in Montreal effectively bankrupted the city. Furthermore, some economic commentators, such as Nick Malkoutzis from Bloomberg Businessweek, have suggested that Greece’s appetite for extravagance in preparation for the 2004 Olympics in Athens – its overall cost of €9 billion made it the most expensive Olympic Games at the time – foreshadowed Greece becoming the first EU country to be subjected to the European Commission’s fiscal monitoring in 2005. Equally, though, there have been a number of Olympics Games that have proven to be a tremendous economic success for the host nation. In 1984, contrasting with Montreal’s financial nightmare in the preceding Games, the Olympics in Los Angeles made a $250 million profit; after the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea’s economy grew by 12%; and the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona sparked the inception of the city’s cultural and financial resurgence.

Like London 2012, Barcelona’s Olympic Games were held whilst Europe’s economy was beleaguered by recession. Consequently, its long-lasting success may well be a source of guidance and inspiration for our politicians. Indeed, the London Olympics’ legacy for the city’s commerce has been an area of particular focus for Olympic Minister, Hugh Robertson: businesses, he told The Evening Standard, need to take a ‘long term view‘ on the effect of the Olympics and expect ‘a huge payback in terms of tourism and spend on both the economy and in the retail sector in the years ahead’. The Cultural Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, supported Mr. Robinson’s outlook: ‘London is already one of the world’s greatest cities, but these Games have made it iconic and if you have a business in London, in the years to come you are going to benefit massively from the huge amount of publicity, PR, promotion and marketing that you get from having a Games in London’. However, with the British Business Embassy’s forecast of the Olympic and Paralympic games generating ‘£11 billion in benefits to the UK economy’, could they alleviate the country’s current economic issues? Goldman Sachs, according to MindfulMoney, ‘predicts a short term boost to the economy of 0.3% to 0.4% in Q3 – enough to perhaps [sic.] temporarily lift the UK out of recession‘, and Capital Economics, according to The Guardian, concur that they could help ‘the economy grow by 0.8% in the third quarter‘ with a ‘temporary boost’. It seems, therefore, that the financial benefits of the Olympics could be regarded as both a short and long term solution to the UK’s continuing unstable financial circumstances. Like the many athletes we have seen recently peering up at the Olympic Stadium’s electronic screens, though, we must wait nervously to see the results.

Published on The Student Journals